On Knowledge, Networks, and Notches

By Tony Lawson

I would not be in my internship position at the Wornall House without my solid academic background.  For years, I have worked hard in school, earned good grades, and received a few honors and accolades from academia.  My knowledge of historiography, American History, and specifically Missouri history, has paid off in getting me into this choice internship at Wornall House.  I have loved every minute of it.  Now that I am in this position and have accomplished a few things, I look back and recount what it took, beyond this background knowledge and education, to get things done thus far.

The first thing I was able to do was “hook up” the Wornall House with Dr. Matthew Osborn at UMKC for a planned “Whiskey as Medicine” cocktail party/fundraising event in the fall.  At an early meeting I learned of the planned party and suggested that Dr. Osborn would be an excellent guest speaker at the event.  Dr. Osborn has specialized knowledge in the area of the consumption of alcohol and drugs in early America and teaches a popular course at UMKC called “Getting High in America.”  My connections at UMKC through the History Department made that possibility a reality.  I look forward to hearing Dr. Osborn’s short speech about the topic of “Whiskey as Medicine” while enjoying shot of whiskey at a cocktail party in the fall.

My second accomplishment was to connect the professional photography work of Bethany Wears to the project.  Bethany took the photos I have used in these blog entries about Wornall House and the more formal blog entries I am posting at the Kansas City Public Library’s Civil War on the Western Border website.  Bethany’s photos inspired me.  They really did.  The muse visited when I wrote the piece on the .44 lead ball for the library and I am proud of that work and most fortunate to get the opportunity to network with Jason Roe PhD at the library.  He is an editor with the mostest!  The thing is, Bethany does not work cheap.  She is a full-blown professional and charges around $175 an hour for her work.  So far, I have been able to get her work donated to the museum.  Will I be able to get Bethany to donate more of her time and work?  Stay tuned!

The six planned blog entries at the KCPL website coincide with the planned exhibit at the Wornall House.  Those blogs and my encyclopedia entries there are my best “published” work.  Each of those pieces are like notches on my pistol grips.  I’m a sure shot Border War history writer and those articles and blog entries are a record to prove it.  I look forward to adding more notches over the summer.

One other accomplishment, and I’m still holding my breath on this one, is in obtaining artifacts for the exhibit. The original theme of the project was Civil War Medicine.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the Wornall House does not own any artifacts that can be directly related to Civil War medicine.  Through my own creativity, I managed to connect the .44 caliber lead ball to medicine, but other than the bullet, the museum owns nothing medically related.  We have to come up with that stuff on our own.  Through my network of personal acquaintances at our restaurant, The Bean Counter Cafe’, I have an inside track with the folks that own the privately owned Steamboat Arabia Museum (SAM).  The SAM has  quite possibly the largest collection of antebellum artifacts in the world.  What they have medically related and what they may loan us for the exhibit remains to be seen.  It is a project in the works that may work out well and I owe that to my network–and the fine food and congenial atmosphere of our business.

I had a fair part in choosing the topics for the upcoming Wornall House exhibit and and I am taking on the responsibilities of researching and writing for the project beyond the terms of my internship.  I will be working over the summer because it so many ways the planned exhibit has become my baby.  With Anna Marie Tutera accepting a new position at the Kansas City Museum the Directors job at Wornall/Majors will be open.  I plan on throwing my hat in the ring if I get even half a chance to do so.  I know it is long shot, but if I were to get that gig, I would credit it to my personal network and the proverbial notches on my gun as much as my hard-earned and respectable MA in US History from an R-1.

Networks and Notches

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